Cape Dwarf Chameleon


Cape Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion Pumilum)

The Cape dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion pumilum), is a chameleon native to the South African province of the Western Cape, where it is restricted to the region around Cape Town. As with most chameleons, its tongue is twice the length of its body and it can be shot out of its mouth using a special muscle in the jaw. This gives the chameleon the ability to catch insects some distance away.


In the past, most South African dwarf chameleons were considered to be a subspecies of the Cape species [1] This is now known to be wrong, however; B. pumilum does not appear to have any particularly close living relatives. Like the Knysna dwarf chameleon, it seems to be a basal offshoot of the ancestral stock which gave rise to all Bradypodion species.[2]


The Cape dwarf chameleon is known to grow over 15 cm (5.9 in) in length, including the tail, with males and females reaching similar adult sizes. They are ovoviviparous, but examination in controlled captivity has shown the very soft egg-like membrane around the young is discarded immediately on birth. The young resemble miniature versions of the adults, with muted colours, and typically reach no more than 2 cm in length at birth. Adults can vary quite significantly in colour variety, saturation and pattern, some appearing much more vibrant than others. The tail is prehensile, and the feet are well evolved to grasping twigs, with minute claws on the end which improve grip.

Normally very slow moving, chameleons have a characteristic shake which may let them look more like leaves to prey and predators. When provoked, they can speed up to several centimetres a second. When further provoked, they will inflate themselves, hiss, change colour dramatically and bite. They do not have sharp teeth, so their bites rarely inflict more than a slight pinch.


The Cape dwarf chameleon is restricted to the area around Cape Town, the Boland, and the mountainous coastline as far as Agulhas.


Habitat in wilderness areas

This species inhabits a range of different habitats and vegetation types, from fynbos and renosterveld, to indigenous Afrotemperate forest and wetlands.

It is less common in extremely fire-prone and low-growing fynbos, as well as in open sandy or rocky areas. It is more usually found in areas such as river valleys, which are sheltered to some degree from the region’s seasonal fires, and where more dense vegetation has developed. It shows preferences in the plant species which it resides on too – avoiding species of Metalasia and especially favouring Restios. This adaptable little species has also diversified into different forms and colours, depending on their habitat. Those living in open, low-lying fynbos vegetation tend to be smaller and dull-coloured with smaller crests; those in denser, closed vegetation areas tend to be larger and brightly coloured with a longer tail and larger casque.

In the wild, its predators are mainly snakes and predatory birds such as Fiscal Shrikes.[3]

Habitat in urban areas

With much of their former habitat now covered in suburbs, this little species has shown itself to be partially adaptable to suburban gardens. However not all suburban areas are suitable.

Chameleons survive in urban areas only where gardens include lots of bushy and varied vegetation. Most suitable are bushes and small trees which have fine foliage or thin twigs that chameleons can grasp with their hands and use as perches. Pruning or trimming of bushes will usually injure and kill the chameleons. They will avoid lawns too. Chameleons wander and, in suburbs with smaller gardens, they also avoid properties which are not connected to larger “green corridors” which extend over several properties.[4]

In urban areas its predators are mainly domestic cats – a non-native, introduced predator, against which chameleons are defenseless. Other predators include a range of urban and introduced bird species such as crows. Certain gardening practices such as using insecticides or hedge trimmers can also kill off urban populations.[5][6]

More Info in WIKIPEDIA